This boosted Sagan’s quest for a record-breaking eighth green jersey for the points classification.
Green jersey holder Sam Bennett, along with Australian Caleb Ewan, were left far behind and were unable to compete in the intermediate sprint, where Sagan collected 17 points after being beaten by only Matteo Trentin.
Three-time world champion Sagan was again beaten in the final sprint won by champion Milan-Sanremo Van Aert, but the Slovakian collected four more points to push Bennett to the top of the points standings.
He leads Bennett by nine points and Van Aert by 32 points, but the Belgian has said he has no interest in the green jersey.
“The important thing is to take all the points you can from the start, but it costs a lot of energy and it’s just not possible to do my job for the team and focus on the intermediate sprints and group sprints, ”said Van Aert.
The eighth stage on Saturday is a 141 km trek in the Pyrenees, with climbs to Col de Mente, Port de Bales and Col de Peyresourde.
While the descent arrival could cause the big guns to hold fire again, any movement of Pogacar to regain time could trigger a movement.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Alison Williams and Ian Chadband)